Monday, 19 July 2010

Hijab and the Media

I don't know how MMW does it, but contributor Diana just posted a very timely article entitled 'Coverage of “Fashionable” Muslim Women Cramps Our Style' which you can read here.

Diana discusses the recent media of coverage of hijab bloggers and designers, including Hijab Style. This was my comment in reply to her post:

"Thanks for writing this. As a hijab blogger and one of those mentioned in the BBC article you linked to and many others; dealing with the media can be a bit frustrating. Somehow our words are always distorted (and sometimes simply even made up) to fit the sensationalist agenda of the article. But I guess that happens with most things Muslim-woman related anyway.

One of the main problems I think is that even though there is all this media coverage, underneath it all is still the assumption that an all-encompassing black robe is "authentic Islamic dress" whereas we 'modern stylish hijabis' are somehow promoting a fake, watered down version in the name of 'integration' and 'fitting in'. Hence why niqabs, burkas, etc. are still seen as threats of 'Islamism' and in need of banning.

The same can be said of certain Muslim magazines and websites which irresponsibly also add to this supposed dichotomy between the pious, abaya-and-niqab wearing Muslimah and her less religiously inclined tunic-and-jeans couterpart. It's sickening yet constantly certain members of the Muslim community will brandish any Muslimah who doesn't dress in their 'uniform' as being ignorant of 'true' Islamic teachings regards dress, of being materialistic, and only caring about the 'dunya', etc. When Muslims themselves are spreading these ideas, is it then really any surprise that the media is too?

The idea a lot of us are trying to get across is simple; that hijab and Islamic dress are timeless and are not restricted to one culture or one prescribed style.

The only hijab article I ever felt 100% comfortable with was the one I wrote for the Guardian myself; and that's probably why. No sensationalism, no lazy journalists with cheap headlines.

On the blog I also make an effort to stay away from both the politics of hijab and self-righteous preaching; at the end of day we already get enough from outside the community and within it.

P.s. I really cannot stand the word 'hijabistas'...who calls themselves that anyway?"

I'd love to hear from you too; what do you think about the way the media discusses Muslim women's clothing?


Asiya said...

Thanks for this, posted a comment on the article.

I hate "hijabistas" too...almost as much as I hate "muhajababes." Really, the only term I can think of that I`ve used in describing myself would be an occasional use of the word "hijabi."

Personally, I think some of this drive by westerners to define us is due to curiosity. In one respect it seems positive as a tentative move towards more understanding.

Naziehah said...

I could not have said it better Jana! You are so spot on when you mentioned that:

"hijab and Islamic dress are timeless and are not restricted to one culture or prescribed style"

For me, what I always remind myself is that to be more understanding of other people's choices. Some people are brought up in 'abaya and niqabs' family, hence that is their custom. Some people are very active in their lifestyle, hence t-shirt and jeans are their choice of clothing. Some are more feminine, some loves simpler items. It's all different from one person to the other.

Isn't it also an Islamic value to think good of other people? To not be prejudiced and judgemental? Also another thing that I need to remind myself from time to time.

I know its not the easiest being a woman your position, I kinda able to relate with that ;). I pray that you will always be given strength and wisdom to continue doing the good work that you do, Insya-Allah :)

Neira said...

This whole media attention actually annoys me a bit, as it doesn't feel genuine
it just feels that it's either patronising or a way to find how we who like nice clothes, are a different breed of Muslims, and I do not think that kufar are fit to judge us in such a way, it's bad enough that some of our sisters and brothers do it already.
We just like nice stuff and of course bring a younger generation than our parents we will have more "up-to-date" tastes, there's nothing more to it, 'jeeeeez'

Anonymous said...

The word hijabista makes me cringe everytime. When will Muslim women stop being seen as anomalies? At the same time, its good to see Muslim Sisters mentioned in these publications. Hopefully though, the recent coverage will cause some non Muslim women to understand that being covered is beautiful too.

I agree with the theme of the article - we need to stop creating dichotomies.

Coffee Catholic said...

Hijab being in the media is good in that it helps remove some of the rediculous fear that people have about modest dress.

But your letter and the article you were commenting on summed everything up PERFECTLY! There's nothing I can add except, "My thoughts exactly."

Jana said...

Asiya, very true, 'muhajababe' is even worse!

Naziehah, I think all Muslim women get a hard time of it. No matter what you do someone will be judging and criticising you on either side.

Neira, I know, it seems so ignorant that people think this is a strange concept. With 1.2 billion Muslims on this planet now, didn't it occur to people that we all have different tastes and preferences!

Anon, I hope so too. I was talking to a photographer recently and she said that Muslim fashion ought to have a wider platform!

CC, true, though no matter what you do, people either side are quick to attack and become judgemental, simply because you're putting your own opinion across, as evidenced by some of the other comments on the article.

Glad I seem to be talking some sense though :D

Ashi said...

Your definitely talking sense Jana! I agree with all the above. Terms like hijabista, hijabunista etc etc annoy me too :\

It would be nice if the media just asked us how we felt about hijab, they're only going to get the why not?

Rania said...

Assalamu'alaikum wr wb, Jana.

It's nice to have this kind of discussion. And I'd like to share my opinion too:

I think the basic thing to bear in mind is we all are trying our best to obey Allah SWT; to do what Allah wants us to do. All of us are trying our best, in our way, to be close to the "Truth from Allah's side". We all have the same intention. So, no need to get into dichotomy, trichotomy, etc, and to judge each other.

And about our clothes as a hijab, according to Qur'an:
Surah 7:26
O ye Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness,- that is the best. Such are among the Signs of Allah, that they may receive admonition!

So clothing does not have to be drab: it is all right for both sexes to use clothing to enhance beauty as well as to cover nakedness. The most important thing is to be modest and righteous.

And one more thing I'd like to add is in regard to the BBC's question: “But doesn’t the showy nature of fashion contradict the essence of Hijab?”

In my opinion: No, it doesn't contradict. I think based on the ayah above, it's okay if we are showy about our clothes, as long as we're NOT showy about our body. (Allah knows best)

Fashion is showy. It shows creativities on clothes/outfits. So does 'Muslim Fashion', it is showy, it shows creativities on modest clothes/outfits ('modest' according to Islamic rules).
So, what is wrong with 'Muslim Fashion'? Perhaps for some people, the reason why they want to deal with 'Muslim Fashion' is because they do want to fit in and be a part of mainstream society (nothing wrong with this as long as they keep follow Islamic rules in their life, for example: wearing hijab in western style; And people have their own reason why they want to fit in);
And for some other people, is because they want to create beautiful outfits in their own style (still within Islam's mandate of modesty) as their self expression. And this is allowed according to the ayah above.

Anonymous said...

I need your help on what to wear for a dinner that is due in 2 weeks time.
The theme is village style.
Fyi, I usuall wear size 10 and I;m 21 y.o.


lagatta à montréal said...

Hello, very interesting blog. I'm not Muslim and I'd like to know if "hijabi" is a respectful term for women who wear hijab.

Usually, if I have to describe someone, I'll simply say "that lady, in a hijab" (if it is relevant to describe someone. Obviously if I were just outside a local mosque, I'd find another description!

"hijabista" sounds like a portemanteau word formed from hijab and "fashionista" (an invented word in English). I'd tend to avoid the term as it sounds like an ideology or militant group - an unfortunate stereotype in the West.

Ryn said...

A wonderfully-written comment! I am not Muslim myself, but choose to wear the hijab for my own reasons (modesty being one of them, obviously), and I frequently run into difficulties trying to explain what "Muslim fashion" is about. While I may not be Muslim, I am still representing Islam when I go out dressed like one, so I try to be as respectful and knowledgeable as I can.

I agree with the previous commentors who said that modest dress and being fashion-forward don't have to be mutually exclusive-- I second Rania's comment: "it's okay if we are showy about our clothes, as long as we're NOT showy about our body." :-)

Respectfully rockin' the hijab *and* a fabulous pair of high heels,


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